Leader of FedEx pilots union calls for strike authorization vote; ballot to open April 18
The head of the FedEx pilots union is asking for a strike authorization vote.
FedEx Express, a unit of the Air Line Pilots Association(ALPA), entered into negotiations with corporate management on May 20, 2021 in order to obtain a new contract for its pilots.
A year and a half later, both sides were still unable to reach an agreement. Leaders of FedEx pilots unanimously approved a resolution in February 2023 that allowed Captain Chris Norman to be the FedEx ALPA Chair and call a vote on strike authorization 'whenever the time is right'.
It's finally here.
Norman, in a message he sent on Friday April 14 to the members of the FedEx ALPA Unit, announced that a vote to authorize a strike would begin April 18. A ballot with detailed instructions about the voting process and a ballot will be sent out to the pilots on that date.
FedEx celebrated its 50th birthday on April 18, 1973, the day it was founded.
Norman wrote in an email: 'We have a good idea, through your frequent surveys and direct contact with you, that their proposals are not up to your standards and do not reflect what we deserve.' I ask you to join me to send a clear message to management, that our pilot group has a common goal to obtain an industry-leading contract. We are prepared to go to any lengths, if needed, to achieve this goal.
FedEx responded to MBJ's request for a statement on the union’s call for a vote authorizing a strike by providing the following:
"First of all, the ALPA's request for a vote by its members will not affect our service. We continue to deliver for our customers in every corner of the globe. We are currently in productive discussions with our pilots, and we have agreed on additional future bargaining dates. Strikes can only be carried out with the permission of the National Mediation Board and after parties have completed multiple legal steps.
How did the pilots get to this point?
In May 2021, negotiations between FedEx, ALPA FedEx Express and other parties began with the goal of reaching an agreement in a year. The groups had not reached an agreement by October 2022. So, they filed for federal mediation at the National Mediation Board.
Since then, a federal mediator has been involved in the negotiations. However, no agreement has been reached. The unit then passed a resolution in February authorizing Norman, to call a vote on strike authorization when the time was right.
Norman said to MBJ that he had met with more than 100 pilots in the crewroom on February 22, 2023. They want to know more about the process and have a better understanding, but they are committed. Our pilots are essential to our success. They feel that they have been ignored and undervalued by our management.
Strikes are possible
A strike is not a foregone conclusion. The February resolution and the ballot to authorize a strike are just two steps in a lengthy process. The National Mediation Board must give permission for the pilots to go on strike. It decides if FedEx and the Pilots will continue negotiations or enter a cooling-off period of 30 days.
During this time, both groups would continue to negotiate and work. It is possible that an agreement can be reached during this period. After a cooling-off time, FedEx and the pilots could decide to lock out or strike.
But even then, a strike may not be inevitable. The White House or Congress might intervene to force both sides to sign a contract. FedEx mentioned this possibility in a February public update. The company stated that strikes "can only happen after parties have gone through multiple legally required steps and when other safeguards such as presidential or Congressional intervention do not occur."
The company said that they also expected to reach a settlement.
FedEx released a statement on February 22 that said, "FedEx remains fully committed to working together with our pilots and National Mediation Board in order to reach a comprehensive settlement." We are confident we can achieve this while providing the best service possible to our customers without disrupting our operations.
What pilots really want
Negotiations between FedEx's pilots and the company are centered around a number of issues. The pilots' initial focus in the contract was retirement and quality-of-life. Norman told MBJ in February that the pilots and company had tentatively agreed on these areas. There were still three major issues that they disagreed about, and this was what led to the deadlock. These included the length of the contract, the "look back," as Norman called it, and the pay.
He explained that the look-back would compensate pilots who have not received raises, as no pilots received a pay bump since November 2021 when the current contract was amended. Norman also said that they want more general increases in pay, since the compensation FedEx pilots receive is not comparable to what other large airlines offer.
Some companies have also reached agreements with their pilots that include pay increases. Delta Airlines, in December, offered to pay its pilots at least 34% more over the next four years. The first increase was 18% after the agreement was signed. The Atlanta Business Chronicle (MBJ's sister magazine) reported that the proposal came about a month after Delta Airlines' pilot union voted for a strike.
FedEx Changes its Business Model
After years of operating independently, the company announced on April 5 that it will consolidate all its operating companies under one organization.
FedEx Express will be merged with FedEx Ground and FedEx Services. This transition phase is designed to create a Federal Express Corp., a company that operates a fully integrated, unified air-ground network. FedEx Freight will continue to provide less-than truckload shipping as a separate company within Federal Express Corp.